Tuesday 23 July 2019

Anthony Martial and Jose Mourinho set for stand-off

Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: AP
Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: AP

Jamie Jackson

Anthony Martial is heading for a stand-off with Manchester United as the striker is determined to leave the club and José Mourinho is minded not to sell the Frenchman. Martial believes his career has stalled at United and the 22-year-old's contract expires next summer. But United are expected to trigger a clause that allows for his terms to be extended for a year and so tie Martial down until summer 2020. By doing so, the club could fetch a far higher fee.

Mourinho has stated that Martial will be in his starting line-up for United's first game of the new campaign, the visit of Leicester to Old Trafford on August 10, because the manager's frontline centre-forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, will not be match fit after having an extended holiday following the World Cup.

Were they available, Martial would almost certainly not be chosen, and Alexis Sánchez might still be selected ahead of him. Jesse Lingard is also on a post-Russia break and is another player higher in the pecking order than Martial. The England foward's absence clears the way for Martial to start.

Despite the uncertainty over his future, Ander Herrera believes Martial can still re-establish himself for United. "He's very talented," the midfielder said. "He can be one of the best players in the world and I think he is very focused this season to smash it. When you have players like Anthony, like Rashford, Jesse, Juan [Mata], Alexis, those kind of players that can change the game."

Herrera believes Martial is one of a strong group of forward options for the manager. "If one of them cannot play, we have three or four more so we have lots of options," he said. "I think we shouldn't think that any other club in the Premier League has better players because at least we have as good as the opponents."

Martial was bought by Louis van Gaal for £36m in the summer of 2015, a world-record fee for a teenager that rises to £58m with add-ons. Despite United struggling under the Dutchman the following season Martial was a standout performer, scoring a memorable goal against Liverpool on his debut after coming on as a 65th-minute substitute in the 3-1 win at Old Trafford. He ended that first season with 17 goals, including the 90th-minute winner against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final as Van Gaal's side went on to win the trophy for the first time since 2004, Martial playing all of the Wembley final.

The Dutchman, though, was sacked for failing to claim a Champions League place and under Mourinho Martial has lost his way. He is no longer a first choice, and scored only eight goals in 2016-17 and 11 last season. Martial lost the No 9 jersey when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was signed by Mourinho in 2016, with Lukaku then taking it 12 months ago.

Martial's patchy form has caused Mourinho continuing frustration. As neither Lingard, Mata nor Rashford have established themselves as an automatic choice in Mourinho's starting XI, Martial can still win him over.

Observer

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